Get Excited! SeaFall

If you don’t know by now, SeaFall is coming.  Plaid Hat has pre-orders available now and can be found here.  Now should you pre-order this game?  Is it going to be good?  What’s the hype all about?  I have read the rules (available here) and watched the trailer (here).  Yes, the newest trend in board games is trailers but we aren’t going to get into that discussion here.  The game is coming.  It is Rob Daviau, Plaid Hat, Legacy, and Indiana Jones in the sea.  That should be all the hype you need but I am going to spread it on thick here so just wait and see.  Watch the trailer now if you haven’t.

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Ok, watched it?  Good.  BONES!  What?  Strange bones on the ground, yes please.  Ok, cannibals, dinosaur island, King Kong, aliens, Kraken.  I am just running all the possibilities in my head.  And they are all awesome.  And maybe it is all of them and none of them.  Maybe depending on the choices my group makes we will discover the Kraken and your group might fight off a T-Rex.  You never know as of course this is a Legacy Game.

LEGACY!!!

Yes, it is a legacy game and man that is so cool.  I can’t believe how much fun I have had with the previous games in the “series” and my hopes are high for this one.  Look at the rules.  Seriously, look at them, don’t read them just yet, just flip through the pages (or click since it is a pdf).  EMPTY BOXES FOR FUTURE RULES!!!  There is stuff we don’t know already and I can’t stand it!  Maybe the rules for the game change it to be a co-op, maybe they change it to be a tech tree driven civilization game.  Ok, probably not either of those but it COULD!  Not I or you know what is to come and doesn’t that feel great?  First, we know this game is going to be great.  Now you can read the rules if you must but don’t feel like you have to.  I won’t be going through them all here but I am going to highlight some things.  My trust in the designer has never been higher for a game.  And that says a lot.

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I am going to lessen the hype here just a little.  Don’t worry we are going to crank it back to 11 soon but just hear me out for a second.  Legacy, so far, has been Risk and Pandemic.  You know what they have in common?  They are games that we already know, play well, and we are comfortable making changes to.  I mean Risk has hundreds of versions out there and Pandemic has had a lot of expansions.  But SeaFall.  Oh…SeaFall…  What are you?  I don’t know you.  Will I like your game?  Will I care about this game at all?  There is a chance the base game this Legacy is built on is weak, unplayable, and just awful.  There is also a chance when I open the game box I find a dead parrot.  Neither is very likely but always possible.  So how can I be so hyped about a game that just might be a stinker?

Well, the reason lies in my desire to play the new and the different.  I want story, and not just story someone wrote and I read it out card by card but a story unique to me and my group.  Legacy games deliver this and so far I haven’t been disappointed in the games those stories come boxed in.  So first I am giving the benefit of the doubt to SeaFall to tell me the story and quite frankly not screw up the game-play.  Wait, you don’t seem to be hyped anymore.  I know that was kind of harsh but what I mean is even if the game was bad I would like the exploration of the secrets but if the game is great I am going to be over the moon.  So I read the rules.  Exploration, fighting, plundering, trading, and territory control.  Ok, this is sounding great.  Dice?  Eh, I can live with that part.  Upgrades?  Yes please.  Not only this but I can attack my fellow gamer?  This is going to be awesome.

There is a lot of stuff to think about each turn but thankfully there are only a handful of actions to choose from.  I know one of my key actions will be exploration.  Anytime I get to read from the Captain’s Booke I am going to take it.  Yeah I might not get the most points off the bat but I will get the most story out of the game.  Or maybe I won’t.  This is all my assumptions based on the rules read.  And because the game says the person to find the island at the end of the world will trigger the end of the game, I figure I would like to be that explorer.  But I also want to be the Emperor.  I want to win this epic campaign.  The fact that I am already trying to think of strategies on what upgrades to take, what areas to explore, when to plunder and when to be peaceful, all come from my previous knowledge of Legacy games and what I feel must be coming in this game.

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The fact that the unknown boxes are called treasure chests can’t be coincidence.  Those boxes are going to contain pure gold.  Why do I know this?  Because right now their contents are unknown.  The possibilities are endless.  And the desire to find out is paramount.  The thought that Rob Daviau has created a world inside a box and only I and my group will get to live in it is fantastic.  I can’t say all adventure themes are my favorite games but the magic here is that the theme is a template and the story is yet to come.

I want to be clear on one point though and that is I am going to have a hard time getting this game played.  Yeah, the guy basically foaming at the mouth for the game is going to have a hard time being able to play it.  Why?  Well, it is addressed in the rulebook and I am thankful for it, but the best way to play this is with the same group throughout every game.  That is just very hard for me and my current gaming group.  To get 5 of us together to play this on a consistent basis is going to be difficult.  I really don’t want to replace or dump anyone or even have to get someone to play catch up so I am going to have to methodically pick my crew and schedule our game times.  If you didn’t notice in the rules, there are answers to nearly all the nagging questions I currently may have about the game.  But if that isn’t enough, what follows is a brief interview with Rob himself.

He Speaks…

Eric (Paraphrased from phone interview): Are you excited about this new game you built from the ground up?

Rob (Paraphrased from phone interview): I’m nervous, excited, and relieved.  I put over three long years into SeaFall and to see it finally begin to reach fruition it makes the hard work worth it.

E: Can you keep playing after the campaign is over?

R: Yes you can but details on how and what that game will look like are completely under lock and key.

E: Has the pre-order been a success?

R: It has exceeded expectations.  I am as excited about everyone buying the game as you probably are about getting it.  It has been a struggle for me not to bombard Plaid Hat asking minute by minute sales numbers to see how the public is reacting to the game.  But never fear, you will get your copy if you pre-order, demand will be met.

E: Is switching players mid-campaign ok?

R: You can do it sure but it isn’t the best way to play.  Of course, we did everything in our power to make any transition like that smooth and fun.

E: Do you know people will be playing this game on YouTube and sharing their experiences with the world?

R: I do.  My son, like many kids his age, watch many video games played on Twitch and YouTube.  It is surreal to see it for a board game, especially one of mine, but if it gives people more exposure and joy from the game I’m all for it.

Guys and Gals, I want this GAME!

I want to play SeaFall.  I want to open the treasure chests.  I want to find that final island.  I want to be the Emperor.  I want to have fun with 4 of my friends for around 15 game plays and talk for years after about the fun we had.  If you are like me, you should pre-order this game and you should soak up any info that comes out between now and release.  And if you happen to play it and not like it as much as you might think you should, keep playing it, that next box might change the game in a way which might bring that joy back.  And that is the beauty of Legacy games.  Unlike most games, the hype doesn’t die once you play it the first time, it builds until every nook and cranny of the game is explored.  So GET EXCITED!

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Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Yu –  So, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure what I think about Seafall yet… I’ve been aware of the game for a few years now.  One of the other Opinionated Gamers was an early playtester for it, and he was super excited for it.  At that time, I had only played Risk:Legacy, and I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the whole genre at that time.

My first experience with a legacy game was filled with excitement and fascination in the initial games, but this quickly faded… Mostly because the base game was still Risk, and my group just didn’t enjoy playing Risk.  The first few games introduced some of the legacy components – adding rules, modifying components, writing on the board, personalizing our game with choices made, etc. – but in the end, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to play Risk 20+ times.

Pandemic Legacy was a game much better suited for my group, and the storytelling involved in that was fantastic.  The idea of playing Pandemic 20-ish times was much more palatable than Risk!  However, it’s still a huge commitment, and we’re actually not done with the game yet.

Fast forward to this spring – when I got a chance to be a blind proofreader for the rules.  Obviously, there are no spoilers in the rules, but you do get a chance to see what sort of game it will be.  And, for me, the greatest feature of Seafall is that is a novel game to me.  I will not be bringing any pre-conceived notions of the game or how to play it when we start.  I also have no chance of being fatigued of the game before we start – so the prospect of playing the game 10, 15, 20 or more times isn’t automatically a barrier.  So, in that regard, I’m more excited about Seafall than I was about Pandemic: Legacy.

One sticking point for me is the recommendation that you have the same players play in all games.  My group isn’t particularly well suited for that – we have 5 regular members and a few itinerant visitors, and we don’t always all make it.  If my group chooses to take on the challenge of Seafall, we’ll have to deal with rotating abscences.  The good news is – the rules provide ways to make up for the experience lost by not being in a game.  What remains unclear is how much this will add or detract from the overall experience.  Also, not sure what we will do if we have visitors to our group.  I suppose we could try to get them up to speed on the rules and then let them jump in for whichever regular wasn’t there – but then that doesn’t sound fair to the regular player as their long term game plan could be hijacked by the visitor.

The other possible issue that I have is the need for a large and recurrent time commitment.  I’ve heard (from Rob) that the game could be 30-40 hours long to complete.  That’s a pretty big chunk of gaming time, and one that would take some significant scheduling to make it work.  But… I really want to play it.  I want to see my world develop and I want to find all the cool things in the game.  This may turn out to be a game that I play with my kids instead of my regular group – because I don’t have to wait for a regular game night to get in a game nor will it have to compete with other games for playing time.  It’ll probably still take use 3 months or more to finish the game, but I think I’d rather keep the game in a consistent group so that we can all share the experience fully together.

But, regardless of who I end up playing the game with, I am looking forward to tearing the shrink wrap off the game and getting a chance to experience the story of Seafall and make the game my own.

Larry:  Like Dale, I’m unsure of my feelings for Seafall.  I’ve yet to try a legacy game.  Risk Legacy was still Risk and, more to the point, it would have been very difficult to commit to having the same group available for 15 games.  There are similar issues with Pandemic: Legacy, plus the fact that I’m not a big co-op fan.  I am getting ready to play that with my goddaughter, so that will give me my first exposure to games of this type and I’m sure I’ll have fun with it.  But right now, legacy games are less likely to get to the table with me, rather than more.

Of all of them, though, the one that seemed the most appealing was Seafall.  For one thing, I’m a card-carrying member of the Cult of the New, so the fact that it’s not based on another game is a plus, particularly since I wasn’t a huge fan of the games the earlier legacy titles were based on.  Second, I have enormous respect for Rob Daviau as a designer.  So when people were wondering where the legacy concept would go after the appearance of Risk Legacy, it was always Seafall that I thought would be the star and not Pandemic: Legacy.  Shows what I know!

That said, having to commit to a fixed group of players for that many games remains an obstacle.  And I’m a little worried that Seafall might be a bit more in the AT realm than I’m usually comfortable with.  Finally, will the novelty of a game that changes with time be enough to draw me in?  I suspect what I’ll really want is a mechanically great game that as an added plus, plays differently each time out.  Rob’s a good enough designer to give me that, but if the focus is more on the legacy end of things than the game itself, I may find myself as not being the main audience for the game.  As so often happens, it may come down to the tastes of my gaming group.  If enough people say they’re anxious to try this, I’ll probably go along.  But I’m not certain that will happen.  Either way, I’ll be following the reports on this one closely and hope it will turn out to be the success many of us are anticipating.

Joe Huber: Based upon comments from friends who’ve played Seafall, I’m looking forward to the Seafall.  I’m usually lukewarm on cooperative games (so Pandemic Legacy didn’t excite), and have never been a big fan of Risk (keeping Risk Legacy in the background for me), but I’ve always liked the idea of a Legacy game.  And from what my friends have said, this looks like the Legacy game for me.  I might be wrong – but I’m confident that at worst I’ll enjoy running through the game, so I’m happy to sign up for the repeated plays required.

Mark Jackson: I’m the OG that Dale mentioned – my boys & I were early blind playtesters. (For those new to the playtesting thing, that doesn’t mean we poked our eyes out. It simply means that we played from the rules rather than with the designer sitting there. Blind playtesting catches a lot of problems in game designs because you don’t have someone there to smooth over the rough edges with a quick explanation.)

I’m a huge fan of both Risk: Legacy & Pandemic: Legacy Season 1, so I’m pretty much squarely in the target audience for SeaFall. That said, playing through approximately a third of the game (a number of versions ago) has my boys & I absolutely drooling at the imminent release of this as a published game.

The world is expansive enough to incorporate various strategies and personal tastes – and while it’s definitely more gamer-y than Risk or Pandemic, my then-9-year-old son did just fine with it. We each took our own “path”, so to speak, and the world developed based on what we did (and didn’t) do.

Like Dale, I had the opportunity to proofread the rules this spring… and while many things were retained from the version(s) we played back in late 2013/early 2014, there has been some nifty bits of development done to the design. (Not going to spill the beans on what I’m actually talking about… wouldn’t be prudent.)

And, while Eric could find a dead parrot in his SeaFall box (I wouldn’t put anything past Rob and the Plaid Hat team), it’s more likely that any such parrot included in the game is simply pining for the fjords.

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